Sunday, March 27, 2016

Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Genre:  YA Fantasy
Everlife Series, Book 1

Description (taken from Gena Showalter's website):

Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she's drawn to isn't home to the boy she's falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

In Ten's world, everyone knows what happens after death.  In fact, people pledge themselves to one of the two realms before they die.  There is Troika, a realm with eternal sunshine that values human life and choice above all else.  Then there is Myriad, a realm in the moonlight that values victory and winning above all else.  While Troika will give you a family and support you in the afterlife, Myriad will give you things you can only dream of if you are wanted.  But once you've pledged yourself, there's no going back.  And even if you know what happens in the second life, you don't really know until you die in the first one.

While locked up in an asylum that is good at making its patients choose the realm they've been paid to get them to choose, Ten has refused to pick.  Her father's contract with Myriad is on the line if she doesn't sign with them.  So they put her through all torture until she joins them.  But two laborers appear in the asylum.  They're there to pull her one way or the other.  But even in the end, it is her choice and one she must live with -or die with.

In the beginning, I was confused with how this world worked.  Two realms in the after life, got it.  But does everyone in this first life know about that?  Or only those that are being recruited?  I wasn't really sure.  And without this complete background, I grew skeptical of the story.  Not to mention the boy involved in the romance drove me nuts.  There were moments where I was engrossed in the story and wanted to know what happened.  But now that I've finished it?  I still don't really understand what the book was about other than choosing a side.  Heaven and hell?

I think this is going to be one of those books where you either love it or hate it.  Unless you're me; then you just think it's okay.  I'm not sure what to think with this one.

Thanks goes to Around the World ARC Tours for providing me a review copy.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

Genre:  YA Detective

Description (taken from Kelley Armstrong's website):
Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to find out that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

Riley suffers from PTSD after having witnessed a murder while babysitting a little girl.  She hasn't been able to move on and be normal.  So one weekend, she finds herself at therapy camp along with other troubled teens.  But when masked gunmen interrupt this weekend therapy, it seems Riley will have to relive her nightmares.

Max is an average 18-year-old who moved from the UK to the USA in order to get away from his past.  He's trying to move on with the life he has, but things can be difficult.  And while he spends his time in the back of therapy making snide remarks over everyone else's problems, it seems like he's never going to open up about why he's there in the first place.  And then the gunmen arrive.

This is a classic adrenaline-rush, escape-the-killers, who-dunnit story.  You've got an industrial building with no windows and crazy teenagers stuck together for the weekend.  And stuff just happens to go wrong when kidnappers come in and take them hostage.  I followed the story pretty well and had most things figured out.  And I enjoyed the rhetoric between the characters.  Even though they considered themselves psychologically damaged, they still worked to survive.

An easy story that I think mystery readers will like.  You'll want to keep reading to make sure time hasn't ran out for the characters.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Half Bad by Sally Green

Genre:  YA Paranormal Fantasy
Half Bad Series, Book 1 

Description (taken From Sally Green's website):
Wanted by no one. Hunted by everyone.

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

Nathan's world is made up of fain (non-magic people) and two kinds of witches: White and Black.  The White witches are the witches who practice good magic and use it to promote mankind.  However the Black witches are evil and kill other witches for their power.  Or that is what the witch-order would like us to believe.  Being a half black and half white witch, Nathan's not so sure which side is good and which side is evil.  So far all he's known from the governing white witches has been cruelty and evilness.  Maybe Nathan will be able to find his father to prove to himself that not all black witches are evil.

After Nathan is taken from his home, he begins to learn bits and pieces about his family history as well as prophecies.  But there's not much sense in these prophecies if Nathan can't figure out half of what's going on.  As the White Witches Council tries to shape him into a half-starved animal, he escapes.  And before he can become a full-fledged witch, he needs to receive three gifts from a family member.  So now he's even more convinced that he needs to find his father in order to understand the past that haunts him.

This book is like Harry Potter goes goth.  The prejudices that Nathan undergoes; it's shocking.  He's like the black sheep that everyone tries to paint white before giving up and killing the thing.  And the story moves forward.  And builds.  Suddenly you're engrossed and need to know what's going to happen.  And you realize the ending is coming soon, but it's still climaxing.  And then you're like OMG, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?  And the title of the next chapter is "Acknowledgements," and you realize you're at the end of the story.  The only thing you can think of clearly is how much of an improper ending that was.  And where's the next book?

This is a good starter novel.  It has you wanting more pretty quickly.  And then you hit the end of the book without getting a good ending.  I'm off to get the second one now.

Thanks goes to Penguin Random House for providing me a review copy.

Click here to enter a giveaway for this series.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Remedy by Suzanne Young

Genre:  YA Dystopian
The Program Series, Book 0.5

Description (taken from Suzanne Young's website):
Can one girl take on so many identities without losing her own? Find out in this riveting companion to The Program and the New York Times bestselling The Treatment.

In a world before The Program…Quinlan McKee is a closer. Since the age of seven, Quinn has held the responsibility of providing closure to grieving families with a special skill—she can “become” anyone.Recommended by grief counselors, Quinn is hired by families to take on the short-term role of a deceased loved one between the ages of fifteen and twenty.

She’s not an exact copy, of course, but she wears their clothes and changes her hair, studies them through pictures and videos, and soon, Quinn can act like them, smell like them, and be them for all intents and purposes. But to do her job successfully, she can’t get attached.

Now seventeen, Quinn is deft at recreating herself, sometimes confusing her own past with those of the people she’s portrayed. When she’s given her longest assignment, playing the role of Catalina Barnes, Quinn begins to bond with the deceased girl’s boyfriend. But that’s only the beginning of the complications, especially when Quinn finds out the truth about Catalina’s death. And the epidemic it could start.

Quinn is a closer who helps grieving families cope with loss by becoming the person they lost.  She will be that teenaged girl that parents have lost due to a tragic accident.  What this does is give the parents a chance to tell their daughter what they wish they could have told her before she passed.  In a weird way, it helps give them closure to move the grieving process forward.  But with her latest assignment, Quinn's so wrapped up in it that she's lost a part of herself.

Quinn has become Catalina Barnes, a girl who mysteriously died.  She is going to help the parents move on by playing their daughter for her final birthday party.  But there's a curve ball, Catalina's boyfriend also needs closure.  As Quinn melds into Catalina's life, she begins to wish for this dead girl's life.  But is really pretending to be someone around grieving people the best thing for these people?  Will Quinn be able to leave this assignment with her identity and sanity intact?

So this book is definitely one to appeal to fans of The Program; it's why I picked it up.  It's kind of like a long and drawn-out intro to how the Program becomes what it is.  But what on earth do closers have to do with erasing suicidal memories?  Like I said, a long and drawn-out intro...  Now back to the premise of the story:  I was rolling my eyes and wondering if I was going to enjoy this story since the idea is so far-fetched.  I personally think hiring someone to play a dead person to help with grief is a pretty dumb idea.  But I got wrapped up in the story.  And even when I had the story figured out and thought the plot was kind of pathetic, I had to keep reading.  I wanted more.  Even when I finished the book, I wanted the next one to know what happened to Quinn.  That's how much I like Suzanne Young's writing.  It wasn't until a few days later I was able to finally make an opinion and accept the fact that I was not a big fan of the plot.  Even if I want to read the next one, I still think the plot is a little far-fetched.

I think this book and I have a love-hate relationship.  I do want to read the next one.  But I kind of have to tell the logical part of my brain to just ignore the plot and enjoy the story.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Giveaway: Half Bad Trilogy by Sally Green

The third book of a trilogy I've been wanting to read is coming out later this month.  And I'm finally starting the first book.  So far, so good.  For those of you interested in this series, or those who are dying to read the third one, there's a giveaway at the end of the post to win the complete series.

Half Bad, Half Wild, and Half Lost by Sally Green

Half Bad Trailer

The complete Half Bad series or a Penguin Teen totebag
US only, ages 13+
Ends March 21st
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